Jewish Journal

Moving and Shaking: IAC Gala, FCLA opens new playground, Daniel Jaffe honored, more

by Ryan Torok

Posted on Mar. 20, 2014 at 12:01 pm

Honorees Miri and Isaac Shepher. Photo courtesy of Pal Photography

Honorees Miri and Isaac Shepher. Photo courtesy of Pal Photography

The Israeli American Council (IAC) honored Miriam and Isaac Shepher at its sixth annual gala. The March 9 event, which took place at the Beverly Hilton hotel, raised about $2.5 million for the organization.

The Shephers, pro-Israel philanthropists and the founders of Life Alert, a medical response system for home emergencies, expressed gratitude for the honor. Miriam Shepher is a board member at IAC. 

The lavish affair’s keynote speaker was Noam Bardin, co-creator of Waze, the Israeli navigation app purchased by Google for approximately $1 billion in 2013.

 Waze is just the beginning of a new generation of startups coming out of Israel,” he said. “The challenge Israeli startups have is thinking big,” added Bardin, who believes an open-mindedness toward the prospect of relocating from Tel Aviv to the Silicon Valley is essential for any success-driven, Israel-based technology company.

“I’m accused of not being a Zionist because I believe that to succeed in tech, you have to be in Silicon Valley. … Our challenge here is to help Israelis see [the importance of] this [attitude] and create an environment where you go head to head with the biggest countries in the world.”

The event featured performances by the Israeli pop-rock band Ethnix and the Keshet Chaim Dance Ensemble and drew approximately 1,000 people, among them Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer, who delivered remarks that focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Iran and ways that Israeli-Americans can take advantage of living in a country that “allows you to be full members of society and to keep your identity at the same time.” 

Attendees also included pro-Israel philanthropists Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, as well as IAC board member Adam Milstein, who was seated at the head table with his wife, Gila, the event’s chair. IAC board member Naty Saidoff and his wife, Debbie; IAC board chairman Shawn Evenhaim and StandWithUs CEO Roz Rothstein also turned out.

The IAC describes its mission as “strengthening the Israel-American community, the State of Israel and securing a strong Jewish future.”

Friendship Circle of Los Angeles held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on March 9 to celebrate the opening of its new playground. Photo by Ryan Torok

Friendship Circle Los Angeles (FCLA) director Rabbi Michy Rav-Noy led a March 9 ribbon-cutting ceremony for a $270,000 playground at FCLA, a Chabad-affiliated organization that serves young people living with autism and other special needs. Rav-Noy co-founded FCLA with his wife, Miriam Rav-Noy, more than a decade ago. 

The playground, named My Backyard, includes the state’s only wheelchair-accessible carousel, according to press materials provided by the organization. 

The outdoor space’s opening, which follows two years of planning and nearly one year of construction — a groundbreaking took place last July — proves, ultimately, that “miracles come true,” Rav-Noy in an interview.

L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz was among the more than 100 people who attended the event, which took place at 1952 S. Robertson Blvd. Also present was Scott Minkow, vice president of partnerships and innovation at The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, who played a role in securing an $80,000 grant for the playground from Federation’s Real Estate Principals Organization. Donations from private entities, including community members, made up the funding gap, according to Rav-Noy.

CO Architects, an L.A.-based architectural firm, designed the playground for free, with David Johnson, associate principal at CO Architects, taking on the project.

Bobby Shriver, the former mayor of Santa Monica, who is running to succeed Zev Yaroslavsky as L.A. County Supervisor and whose mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, created the Special Olympics in 1968, said that the completion of the playground is an indication of the evolution of inclusivity toward the special-needs population.

“It’s so inspiring to see people with special needs playing with their friends and regular people doing regular stuff. This was my mom’s goal 40 years ago — it was unimaginable, and here it is today. To see it in the flesh, it’s incredible,” Shriver said.

A new playground at Friendship Circle Los Angeles features state-of-the-art equipment for special-needs children. Photo by Rabbi Michy Rav-Noy

Established in 2003, FCLA describes its mission as three-fold: serving children and teenagers through Jewish-themed activities, such as arts-and-crafts and sports; supporting family members of children with special needs; and providing volunteer experiences for non-special-needs teenagers who work as mentors at the organization.

At the ceremony, all three goals came together. Teen mentors played side by side with special-needs children, and parents of special-needs kids were able to relax as their children enjoyed the many features of the playground in a supervised environment.

The outdoor space includes a multipavement tricycle path that provides sensory stimulation, a garden with a wheelchair-accessible raised bed, distortion mirrors and a water-play system. It also features a jungle gym and monkey bars, offering other forms of tactical interaction.

The carousel is the playground’s centerpiece. The $40,000 piece of playground equipment seats eight people, with space for two people in wheelchairs. It’s a collaborative experience, spun by people — not electricity.

Ms. Wheelchair California Theresa De Vera tried out the equipment during the event, which featured a performance by the Cheder Menachem Boys Choir.

Sarah Well, a trauma nurse at Cedars Sinai-Medical Center, is among those parents who appreciate all the work FCLA has done to create the playground. Her son, Ari, a 5-year-old with a sensory-processing disorder, has been attending FCLA since 2012. She told the crowd that the playground ensures that special-needs children, like Ari, can develop healthfully in spite of their conditions. 

“The role of play in a child’s life is very researched and well documented. ... The playground ensures that special-needs kids can play like any other child,” she said.

Daniel Jaffe

Beverly Hills attorney Daniel Jaffe is this year’s recipient of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) Southern California chapter’s 2014 Family Lawyer of the Year award.

“I still love what I am doing, and I intend to keep doing it forever,” the 76-year-old, who is a member of Sinai Temple, told the Journal.

Jaffe is a supporter of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and New Community Jewish High School. His law firm, Jaffe and Clemens, handles divorce and child custody cases.

Ira Schreck

Community leader Ira Schreck has joined the board of directors of the Association of Jewish Aging Services (AJAS). Schreck is senior vice president of the Jewish Home Foundation.

A lecturer in the MBA program at American Jewish University, he has served on the boards of several nonprofit organizations, including Los Angeles Hebrew High School, Wildwood School and, most recently, his synagogue, Mishkon Tephilo in Venice. He also established Schreck and Associates, a nonprofit consulting company.

Moving and Shaking highlights  events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? E-mail ryant@jewishjournal.com.

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